White Salmon, WA asked in Elder Law, Legal Malpractice and Probate for Oregon

Q: How do I find out what is included in probate in Oregon? How do I sue my lawyer, when her malpractice left me with $0?

Grandpa died with 401k. I hired a probate lawyer. I did not know 401k has a beneficiary. Now the estate has $0, but the probate court believes it's worth $225,000. Everyone rec'd the notice about the worth of the estate. I'm the executor. I can't pay any bills, taxes, lawyer I hired, the will, because the beneficiary took the money for herself. Lawyer now only gives advice on how to raise money to pay her, but I don't believe that her advice is true or lawful, and I believe that she is liable in the situation, and only assessing her own liability. She gave me advice that is illegal activity. Told me to sell a financed car and not pay the loan off but use that money to pay her and the other bills. Told me to sell a trailer in a trailer park instead of transferring the title to the beneficiary named in the will, to pay her. I can't even cancel utilities because I can't pay the balance due to transfer to the new party. I need to know if she is lying just to get paid by me.

1 Lawyer Answer
Theressa Hollis
Theressa Hollis
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: Sometimes it happens that a probate is started but we find out that the assets all have beneficiaries. In that case the probate can be withdrawn. However, it sounds like you have other assets besides the 401(k) to include in the probate. If the car and the manufactured home are in your grandfather's name alone, you have every right to sell them as his court-appointed Personal Representative. The person named in the Will to receive your grandfather's assets only inherits after all bills and taxes are paid and the Probate Court orders distribution. Oregon law gives priority to "costs of administration" which include attorney's fees, CPA fees, your Personal Representative's fee, filing fees, etc. It sounds like your attorney's advice is reasonable. You should probably sell the manufactured home as soon as possible so that you have money to pay the costs of administration and utilities. If you have lost faith in your probate attorney you have every right to hire someone else. However, keep in mind that you will still need to pay your prior attorney and changing attorneys during the probate might end up being more expensive because your new attorney will need some time to get up to speed.

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